The Sante Fe burger with a side of spicy okra chips. (Photo by Gilbert Strode)

SideTrack opened last fall on Hixson Pike less than a mile from our house. My wife and I have driven by a lot, always seeing a perpetually full parking lot, and we've always wondered what could be found in that converted diner.

What we experienced is our new go-to for a romantic evening just in time for Valentine's Day — and our new favorite dessert.


SideTrack's building started off as a Huddle House before a meat-and-three and then a diner took over the space. All three restaurants looked much the same – greasy spoons with cold interiors.

The owner of SideTrack, Lawton Haygood, who also runs Canyon Grill, the Boathouse and Sugar's Ribs, has completely transformed the building. Besides being much larger, SideTrack is covered in brick and warm woods, and dim lighting sets the perfect stage for a romantic meal. Its location next to a railroad track inspired the name.


SideTrack's menu isn't extensive, but it makes up for that with creativity. There are two pizzas, a Margherita ($12) and the Tocino ($15), which has tomato and bacon. The pizzas are cooked on a wood grill and finished in a wood-burning pizza oven, which SideTrack uses for its two crispy half-chicken dishes: Lemon-Garlic Chick or Guajillo Chile Chick, each $13.

If you go

› Where: SideTrack, 3514 Hixson Pike

› Hours: 4-10 p.m. daily; bar open until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

› Prices: Appetizers start at $5; entrees $10-$26.

› Alcohol: Yes

› Phone: 423-414-2690

› Online:

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The Margherita Pizza is a thin-crust pizza topped with San Marzano tomatoes, basil and romano, reggiano and fontina cheeses. (Photo by Gilbert Strode)

The menu also includes wood-grilled rosemary chicken breast with garlic rosemary butter ($10), chicken piccata ($12), either grilled or roasted red snapper ($23) and a 15-ounce wood-grilled New York strip steak served with a creamy horseradish sauce.


We started with the Margherita pizza ($12), which features a perfect thin crust. It's topped with San Marzano tomatoes, basil and several complementary cheeses.

My wife chose a wedge salad ($6), which was lightly covered with a creamy bleu cheese dressing. The mild dressing toned down the bleu cheese's strength without losing its punch. She also ordered a side of grilled red cabbage covered in a savory Italian sauce.

I went for the Sante Fe burger made with ground filet mignon, which made it the juiciest and most savory I've had in a long time. The burger was topped with Monterey Jack cheese, green chilis, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a housemade mayo.

Diners order a la carte, so I paired my burger with spicy okra chips ($5). The okra is sliced thin, fried to a chip-like consistency and coated in spices.

Date night isn't complete without dessert. SideTrack has only three sweet offerings, all $7: a coconut tres leches cake, seasonal berry shortcake and a grown-up s'more.

I now have a new favorite dessert in town: the tres leches cake. We split a slice, which is dense, rich, creamy and served cold. It's topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut. In short, it's life-changing.

I am happy that SideTrack is only two minutes from my house, because my normally reserved wife sent me back for two more pieces of cake an hour after we got home.


Our waiter was attentive and answered our questions well. And the bartender didn't judge me for getting two more orders of cake to go.


I really didn't know what to expect from SideTrack, but I am glad we gave it a try. It's great for a memorable date night, and I know we want to try more of SideTrack's entrees.

While the restaurant doesn't normally take reservations, it will from Feb. 12-18 for the week of Valentine's Day.

If nothing else, SideTrack will see us often for its coconut tres leches cake.

Contact Gilbert Strode at


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